Artist combining his agricultural passion
It’s farming Editor-in-Chief, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with artist and farmer Kathryn Taylor, in this week’s Women in Ag segment. We discuss how she combines her love for art and agriculture.
“I come from Mold-North Wales and have lived here since I was born. I am not directly from an agricultural background, but I have many relatives from an agricultural background, the closest being my grandfather.
The family farm was just outside Wrexham. It was a small operation where they hand-processed 12 Shorthorns and also raised a few pigs and chickens.
Currently I live in a large agricultural area and there are many dairy farms around my village. My house backs onto the fields and is growing. I would always like to see cows on the way home from school, especially when they came to the fence to scratch.
I decided that I wanted to work with cows from an early age. Currently I work on a local dairy farm in Pulford; I milk cows and do general gardening work.
There are also sheep, which gave me a new experience, and I really enjoy it. I always wanted to work with cows from an early age. I love being outdoors and working with animals.
Growing up in a rural area, I had a strong desire to pursue farming, but I didn’t know where to start. I had an opportunity to volunteer at a calf raising unit in Chester while in high school.
I spent my half term and summer vacation helping feed the calves and getting involved in whatever was going on that day.
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When I graduated from high school, I applied for an agriculture course at my local college.
A month after applying, I was offered an apprenticeship in the calf rearing unit. Being more practical, I immediately seized this opportunity.
I learned all aspects of raising calves on buckets and machines.
I obtained a level 2 in agriculture and an animal injection certificate. After two years of raising calves, I decided it was time for a change and have since moved to local dairy farms.
I learned how to milk cows, drive tractors, vaccinate cattle and everything related to the daily management of a farm. Also, I gained confidence working with larger cattle.
Having always been in the dairy sector, I wanted to deepen my knowledge and look for sheep work. My current job has given me this chance to continue milking and learn new skills with sheep.
On the other hand, I have always loved making art since I was very young. My mom is an artist and art teacher, and she helped me turn my doodles into something a little more.
As a child, I loved drawing animals the most and would fill sketchbooks with different types of animals.
I took GCSE art at school, and the class set up a project to paint an aspect of our lives. I chose cows; this soon turned into endless cattle paintings and drawings.
In 2017, I made a instagram account to show my work and has generated some interest.
I mostly painted on canvas and sketched with pencils and charcoal too. I got my first order of a Charolais cow on canvas.
Then I had the opportunity to show my work in local libraries and galleries. This developed into painting on other things like wood slices and cattle tags.
I bought some tags online and tried painting cows on them. Since this is such a unique product, I quickly gained a lot of interest.
I only painted cows to start with, but someone asked me to paint a sheep. So for about six months I only painted cows and sheep.
I took commissions to paint people’s favorite cows/sheep, and they would send me pictures to work from.
This soon turned into painting other animals and has since painted pigs, dogs, cats, goats, ducks and even a ferret.
My job is now mostly commission based, but I always try to update my shop when I can.
My love for agriculture has had a big impact on my paint business to produce more agricultural themed products, especially livestock labels.
As an artist, I most enjoy painting cows and capturing their curious personalities. As requests for other animals came in, I enjoyed painting people’s pets and expanding my works to include more than just farm animals.
Still living at home with my parents, space is very limited. I have a small art corner in my room where I do all my creations. I have a desk and shelves full of pots of brushes and paints and all my materials.
Lack of space can be quite difficult sometimes, but I can make it work.
Website to sell products
I created an Etsy account in 2018; after a few sales, i decided to take the plunge and create my own website.
I sell all my pre-made products there. My current products include watercolor illustrations, Lino prints, painted cattle tags, wood slices and greeting cards. I intend my products to all those who love cows as much as I do!
To produce my artwork, I take pictures of cows from farms I’ve worked on or cows I’ve seen while traveling and working.
I do everything from scratch, which can sometimes slow down the process. A tag can take between an hour and two hours to paint, and my wood slices can take up to five hours.
I have shipped everywhere, Australia, America and even New Zealand.
The Covid-19 pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a very positive impact on my business. Sales increased rapidly during the first lockdown, and I had to wait list for the first time.
The farm I worked on during the pandemic allowed me to do morning and afternoon milking, so I had plenty of time in the day to paint.
I was posting more on social media. This is where my business really gained interest and popularity.
Juggling between business and agriculture
Juggling farming and a business can sometimes be difficult. I take breaks from the business if I need to.
The farm I currently work on is flexible enough that I can still paint and then go for evening milking.
There are busy days, but I have found a good balance. I also have a waiting list for orders, so I don’t take too many at once.
women in agriculture
As a woman in agriculture, I feel like I have the same respect as men and I have never felt excluded. I think women in agriculture are well recognized, especially through social media.
Women show what they can do every day through the likes of instagram and Facebook.
Red Shepherdess and Yorkshire Shepherdess are two examples of online influencers who can show exactly what women can do.
I think women should be given more media coverage in farming programs on TV to encourage more women to get into farming. This will give women from a non-agricultural background like me a chance to see that they can apply for agricultural jobs.
Many farms are ready to form, but I think the general public would not know about it and think you have to be from a farming family to farm.
Women should consider a career in agriculture as they will learn lifelong skills and bring change to the male dominated industry.
Women who wish to work with animals, crops or machinery should not be discouraged from pursuing a career in agriculture. It’s never too late to learn and it’s a great opportunity to make a difference.
For me, I don’t feel that farming is a challenge. My abilities have never been questioned and I am confident in my work.
Regarding my plans, I would like to stay in agriculture and continue to learn new skills.
I want to progress to a management position. I’m proud of how far I’ve come, of having no idea if I’ll ever go into farming, of now having a full range of skills and of being confident in what I’m doing.
It was a tough journey, but it made me who I am today.
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